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The Untitled Blog Post from a Cast Member With a Really Long Title

Photo of Cristy Salinas, cast member of The Untitled Avant-Garde Theater Project With a Really Long Title

We asked cast member and Hideout Theater graduate, Cristy Salinas, to talk about her experience with the upcoming student mainstage show:

There’s buzz. Murmurs. Excitement. All surrounding the Hideout Theatre’s last student mainstage of 2016: The Untitled Avant-garde Theater Project With a Really Long Title.

There’s a story, and then there’s not.

There’s not necessarily main character, but there could be.

There’s self-expression until there is collective expression.

It’s all of the things and none of them at the same time.

It’s avant-garde.

It’s been an honor working alongside a diverse group of improvisors –– diverse in that we all have different life experiences and backgrounds and varying degrees of improv and theater training. This mish-mash has resulted in an ensemble cast that trusts one another, takes risks together, and isn’t afraid to throw the traditional rules of improv out the window (while still keeping some of the rules in our back pockets).

Personally, putting this show together has felt a lot like a democracy. Director Jon Bolden has empowered us to express our opinions and share ideas on how to build this show. Of course, the running theme in rehearsals has been “Why not? It’s avant-garde!” But that has also opened up a whole new world of ideas. I’ve never been in a show where I also had control of the light board to set a mood or reflect a mood that has already been set on stage, or had access to props that could be construed as something other than they really are. A piece of fabric in my hands can be the wind, it can be a representation of feelings of loneliness, or it can simply be a blanket to keep me warm. There’s no right or wrong in this show. The only “wrong” thing we can do is be too afraid to act on an inclination or idea. We’re free to “follow our feet” as we wish.

The Untitled Avant-Garde Theater Project With a Really Long Title Poster

Although this show, in description, may come across as strictly a parody of avant-garde theater, it also leans heavily towards a pastiche or homage to the art form. Sure, there will be moments where the audience can’t help but laugh at some of the things we do on stage. We do love to be silly after all. But there may also be moments filled with love, sorrow, anger. We hope to bring the audience along with us as we experience all of these emotions. This is meant to be experienced together. All feelings are welcome.

So, what is this show really about? To me, it’s about artistic freedom of expression. Each show will have its own inspiration and theme that will come about organically. There’s no formula, although you may see some similarities from show to show. (After all, we live in a society. There needs to be an introduction, intermission, and end within a 90-minute timeslot.) But you may not find an act structure, story spine, or traditional roles of protagonist and antagonist. Or perhaps you may. That’s what makes being part of this show so much fun.

–– Cristy Salinas

See The Untitled Avant-garde Theater Project With a Really Long Title at The Hideout Theater
Saturdays, Nov. 26th – Dec. 17th at 6pm
Tickets: $10

Click here to purchase tickets

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Hideout Shows Recognized by the B. Iden Payne Awards Council!

We’re so honored that three of our shows have been recognized by the B. Iden Payne Awards Council!

Our November/December 2015 Mainstage show, “Boy, Howdy!” was nominated for “Outstanding Improv Production”, “Outstanding Improv Cast” and “Outstanding Improv Director (Kaci Beeler)”.

Our May/June 2016 Mainstage show “Fiasco” was nominated for “Outstanding Improv Production” and “Outstanding Improv Director (Peter Rogers)”.

Our September/October 2015 Kids’ show “Super Buddies” was nominated for “Outstanding Improv Production”!

We’re so proud and honored! Our friends at The Institution Theater, ColdTowne Theater and The New Movement were also nominated for many awards. We’re so honored to be honored with them!

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The Path to Process

by Process director Jeremy Sweetlamb

The Hideout is a special place for a lot of people. I was around for its inception in 1998 and only after so much recent growth and expansion of their programs and shows have I really begun to see how important it is for so many people. This is a place where someone can submit a ridiculous format like Process, and because there is so much support from staff and systems already in place, a crew of 10 artists and 9 actors can deliver magic. Yes, I am directing the show and I know this sounds a lot like my own horn or some sort of propaganda, but I contend that my influence as a director in an improv show is way less than in the scripted world. The amount of self-directing that the crew and actors do every night for Process way outweighs any influence I have in rehearsals. With these things in mind, I reached out to Rachel Posey Austin and J.R. Zambrano, a couple of our newer performers, to see how they got into theatre, and why they auditioned for Process in the first place.

Jeremy: What is the first memory you have related to theatre?

Rachel Austin in “Precious Bane”

Rachel: My first memory is playing a Christmas tree salesman in a school play in 1st grade. I was overzealous and basically yelled all my lines. I also remember micromanaging all of the other “actors” by pushing them into their places, and if they even remotely hesitated on their lines, I would say them for them. I was well-loved among the cast.

JR: It was pretty early–I couldn’t have been more than 10. My family had just moved to Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. And to try and find a place in the community, my mom went to go and audition for a community theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She ended up bringing me and my two sisters along, and since they were auditioning everyone, I tried out as well and ended up in the kids’ chorus with one of my sisters and a few other kids. My first real clear memory is sitting in the theatre, watching the director and the other actors choreograph the song and dance numbers and trying to dance in sandals. I learned a valuable lesson that day, which was that they can hear you on stage even if you’re singing quietly to yourself in the audience.

Jeremy: Is there someone in your past who has encouraged your love of theatre and/or improv?

Rachel: My dad’s side of the family is very artistically inclined. My grandmother is an artist and my uncle is an actor (and owns the The Ochre House in Dallas). Growing up, I remember talking at length with both of them about theater, art and creative expression. My parents, while neither creatively-inclined, always encouraged me, and I can remember running lines with my dad while sitting on the back of a truck when he was working cattle (he is a veterinarian).

JR: Oh, absolutely. My mom did a lot to encourage my love of the theatre. She’s the whole reason I got into it in the first place. And when I was 12, we took a trip to New York and saw two shows on Broadway (Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables), and that did a lot to cement a love of the theatre. She even helped put together this traveling children’s theatre troupe which went to local schools and did plays for kids. I played Pinocchio. It was a ton of fun.

J.R. Zambrano in “Aladdin”

When it comes to improv, that’s easy: Kacey Samiee threatened to murder me if I didn’t take an improv class. I haven’t looked back since. I was very lucky to end up in Ruby Willmann’s class. She is an incredible teacher and made everything about improv wonderful. Whether it was pointing out that it’s just people up on stage being dumb and goofy, or showing how there’s a kind of magic when everyone listens to each other and a story kind of creates itself. And the best part is I keep meeting awesome people who just make you feel welcome and like you’re doing something really neat together, and I love it. I can’t say enough good things about how friendly and encouraging everyone I’ve met through improv has been. You’re all great!

Jeremy: What is a scripted role or improv format that you would love to play again?

Rachel: Earlier this year, I was in an improvised space western narrative, inspired by the Joss Whedon TV show Firefly. Members of the crew developed characters that they played throughout the run, and the shows were serialized and built off each other. I really loved building that character and playing with the other characters. It was hard to abandon that character after the show concluded and would love to do something like that again.

JR: Oh man, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure if it counts as a format, but I really liked doing SongRunner (an improvised, cyberpunk musical) and I would do that again in a heartbeat. That or Fiasco.

Jeremy: What got you interested in auditioning for Process?

Rachel: I loved the idea of playing two characters – the actor character and the role the actor is playing. Also, I liked that the show pokes fun at scripted theater while still exploring what makes scripted theater so great.

JR: I loved the whole idea of it. Especially when I heard that there’d be costuming and a set, and that it was as much about putting on a show, as it was about performing a show, if that makes sense. I wanted to see what kind of stories you could find in that format, and I thought it might be a great chance to show some love for theatre, which has been a part of my life for a long time now.

Jeremy: Was there anything that happened in your first Process show that surprised you?

Rachel Austin in “Process”

Rachel: I was surprised how fast the time goes. It felt like we had barely started before it was over – but time flies when you’re making things up. Also, the costumes/set pieces. I knew they would be great. But I had no idea how great until my first show. They were so good and just continue to get better.

JR: Absolutely: There were these huge flies on stage, big enough that the audience could see them. Big enough that you couldn’t shoo them away. And in the second half of the show, where we’re putting on the play, I was in a scene with Courtney Hopkin and she was giving this intimidating speech and one of the flies landed on a plum she was holding. Then, right at the absolute perfect moment in her monologue, she paused, swatted the fly, and it fell dead to the stage as she finished talking. It was magical. That kind of unplanned intrusion by reality exemplifies the best thing about live theatre of any kind–each show is its own creation dependent on both the cast/crew and the audience. Even if you’re seeing something that’s been done myriad

J.R. Zambrano in “Process”

times, like Hamlet, you’re still seeing the performance of Hamlet that happens that night. And that particular show will never happen again. So what will your show be like? Only one way to find out!

Jeremy: Who would you most like to see you performing in Process, living or dead?

Rachel: My mother….and Drake. Then we’d hang out and be best friends.

JR: I would love for my grandma to get to see it. I think she’d get a kick out of it.

Jeremy: Big one here: Has the Hideout changed your life? Explain!

Rachel: Absolutely. I didn’t know how much I craved being a part of a community and having a creative outlet. When I started going to the Hideout, I felt more at home than I had for most of my adulthood. I walk in the Hideout and it’s like I’ve come home from school in 4th grade. Instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for me, it’s lovely people and a fantastic cup of coffee. I feel very lucky to have found this place.

JR: Oh man it absolutely has. It’s given me a place where I feel at home, and a wonderful community. There is no way that doesn’t change your life–more directly though, it’s helped me feel more confident and jazzed up about life in general. I mean, I directed a show there recently, and it was basically a dream come true. It’s one of the first times I’ve felt like I could just get out there and make something happen, it’s an incredibly empowering feeling. Plus it’s inspiring being around all the creative folks there. Again, I can’t say enough things about the community they’ve helped build. It’s wonderful.

Jeremy: Tell me the worst possible idea you can think of for a HO main stage show.

Rachel: Improvised Joe Dirt.

JR: Le Petomaniacs: an improvised musical where all the music is farted!

To see Rachel, J.R. and Jeremy in action in Process, get your tickets here!!

Process photos by Steve Rogers and Michael Yew

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